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New County Budget Preserves Sheriff Patrols

By Richard Emmons

On June 1, the Josephine County Board of Commissioners adopted a $196.7 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The budget prioritizes funding for the Sheriff’s Office to maintain patrols at current levels while eliminating some currently unfilled positions. Commissioner Herman Baertschiger commented afterwards, “we use some one-time fixes to backfill the Sheriff’s budget.”

The 2022-23 Josephine County budget provides funding for 472.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. Overall headcount was reduced by 11.8 FTE from the current budget. This represents a 2.3% reduction in budgeted headcount. Due to a hiring freeze and attrition, the headcount reductions eliminate unfilled positions. No employee layoffs will be necessary.

Changes to budgeted FTE (full time equivalent) headcount include:

  • Law Enforcement headcount reduced by 6.5 to 45.9 FTE.
  • Adult Jail & Juvenile Detention headcount reduced by 5 to 44.1 FTE.
  • Public Health headcount increased by 4.5 FTE
  • Parks increased headcount by 1.0 FTE
  • Legal increased headcount by 1.0 FTE
  • Animal Control increased headcount by 1.1 FTE

The general fund is funded primarily through the permanent property tax of $0.5867 per $1000. In the current fiscal year, Law Enforcement receives $0.4437, which is 76% of the property tax. For 2022-23 year, the general fund will have the following sources of revenue:

  • Property Taxes: $5.2 million
  • State Marijuana Tax $538,000
  • Marijuana tax (local 3%): $190,000
  • Timber Revenue (O&C, SRS, etc.): $4 million
  • ARPA admin fee (one-time money): $1.7 million

Federal timber revenue of $4 million equates to $5.69 per acre from the federal government’s 702,872 acres in Josephine County.

In November 2021, the $0.93 Adult Jail & Juvenile Detention levy was renewed for another five years. This levy will provide approximately $8 million dollars.

The Animal Shelter and Control levy of $0.08 was renewed at $0.11 in November 2021. This levy will generate approximately $974,000 for the 2022-23 year.

Josephine County’s permanent tax rate remains $0.5867.

Taken together, the total county property tax rate is just under $1.63 per thousand of assessed value.

In a prior budget presentation, Finance Director Sandy Novak forecasted that, “Law Enforcement will be short by $5,400,000 in 2023/24.” This is $1 million increase over previous estimates. “We are having revenue grow at 3% and expenses at 10%.”

Josephine County’s 59 cent permanent property tax rate limit is the lowest rate among Oregon’s 36 counties. Under Measure 50, the rate was set in 1997 based on historic federal timber receipts.

If federal timber revenue were to grow to $20 per acre, it would fund the Sheriff’s Office shortfall and allow for the elimination of the county’s combined $1.63 property tax rate. Josephine County levied no property tax from 1957 to 1980.

Richard Emmons is the Publisher and Editor of the Josephine County Eagle.